Discover Denton Welcome Center facilitates the art of Dentoning
The breeze from the open doors wafts the comforting smell of coffee around the room. A bright blue mural by Denton artist Dan Black depicts famous sights of Denton like the Courthouse, the UNT eagle and the North Texas Horse Country Tours. Across from the mural, two men sit in a glassed-in DJ booth talking with headsets on. Their conversation about life, music, and interestingly, snacks, can be heard over the building’s loudspeakers and livestreams on DentonRadio.com.
Past the DJ windows are racks of colorful Denton, UNT, and TWU shirts. Home décor items like pillows, coasters, and wall art featuring Texas or Denton are scattered throughout. A free drink station offering lemon water and coffee from local Bookish Coffee is in the back by a wall of brochures. It is noon on a busy Saturday and the room is filled with people, but it doesn’t feel cramped.
The mood is relaxed and friendly as everyone browses while listening to the music the DJ plays over the speakers.
All these differing-yet-related items make up the Discover Denton Welcome Center. The highly-anticipated visitors center opened its doors on the Denton Square in June 2016 and has already exceeded expectations on revenue and visitors. The center is unique as it offers more than just brochures. It also sells products made by local Denton businesses and houses online radio station DentonRadio.com.
“I don’t know of a single other welcome center that does what we do,” said Kim Phillips, Vice President of the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “Most welcome centers have got a couple of people to answer questions and a few brochures. This is an event center. Something is happening here all the time.”
It’s an event center indeed, with frequent live music and showcases, such as tastings with Denton breweries, growler shops and restaurants. The center has quickly become a community hub, displaying Denton’s exciting offerings.
Five years ago, the CVB realized that once they arrive, visitors were often missing out on complete Denton experiences. In 2012, the graduating class of Leadership Denton created a proposal for a visitor’s center. Public and private leadership loved the idea and were eager to be involved. Wanting to help inform tourists and locals alike, the CVB led the project to build the Welcome Center, which finally opened this past summer, boasting more than 20,000 visitors in the first two months of opening.
“This visitor’s center is all about delivering the Denton product, the Denton story – opening the door so that people can create their own story,” Kim said. “People come in here with all kinds of interests and our job here is to help people find the Denton they’re looking for.”
The Welcome Center is next door to the popular LSA Burger Co. and across from the Courthouse-on-the-Square. Its prime location is easy to find and the “Dentoning experts” that staff the center have all the scoop on where and what to do.
“I think it shows the need for the welcome center, not just by visitors, but locals as well because there’s a lot about Denton even they have yet to discover,” Kim said.
The Welcome Center is one of the only places downtown where you can purchase University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University merchandise. It’s also the only visitors center that has its own radio station, giving tourists and locals a gateway into Denton’s rich music culture.
“DentonRadio.com is the vehicle for promoting the Denton music scene in a very physical way,” Kim said. “People don’t just hear about it; they can experience it. The glass part of the radio station is what we’re after – that interaction where people see it as another extension for experiencing Denton, whether you’re here or not. It’s an extension of home. The radio station adds a whole other dimension to delivering Denton.”
Denton feeling like home is what attracted former Dentoning expert Robyn Ferguson to the city.
“I toured so many colleges before deciding to transfer here – this place really felt like home,” Robyn said. “I wanted to immerse myself in this town and get involved in such an amazing family-like community. It’s been wonderful.”
Discover Denton Welcome Center managers Jake Laughlin and Randi Sue Surratt say being able to interact with the community and help uncover interesting facets of this town are their favorite parts of the job.
“Denton fever is not caught; somebody has to give it to you,” Jake said. “To have somebody tell you about all the cool spots – that was life-changing for me. That’s what excites me every day about coming here – what story do we get to affect in somebody else’s life? To some people, we’re just letting them know where the next bus stop is, but to me, we’re helping create memories and stories and a whole new life experience you never imagined until you find something new.”
The CVB’s slogan is “Denton. Original. Independent.” It’s the uniqueness of the city that has attracted so many visitors wanting to experience this cool and vibrant place. Kim has watched Denton’s rapidly-growing popularity over the 14 years she has worked for the CVB.
“This is the most incredible, exciting time to be in a place like Denton,” Kim said. “It’s just booming and it’s nowhere near stopping. To be part of watching that unfold and promoting it so that other people can experience it is just–it’s fun. I love what I do.”